I-35 Lesson #4

Have you ever finished something that you started with dread or uncertainty or self-doubt and thought, “Well, that wasn’t so bad”?

Maybe you jumped out of a plane only because your friend coerced you.

Or you survived the dreaded public speaking gig you just knew would end your life.

Or you breathed in relief after that forever-avoided conversation with that family member.

I was surprised at the frequency of the question “would you do it again?” once someone heard of my completing the I-35 Challenge. The answer is, probably not. But that answer has nothing to do with the experience. It has more to do with how completing a once “questionable something” turned “not so bad something” impacts your mindset.

I-35 Lesson #4: Achievement reveals there’s probably something more

Making the photographer’s job easy (early on Saturday, before I’d hit double digit miles). Photo by @sportsphotoscom.

I’ve experienced it, and I’ve observed it. The lack of confidence at the start line of a race is always alive and well. And for the first-time runner or the first-time attempt at a distance, it’s as much about your mind as it is your legs, your shoes, or your sunglasses.

But somewhere along the journey to completion, the thought crosses your mind, “I’m actually going to get this done. I can’t believe this.” And for many of us, maybe even most, another thought crosses your mind at some point when it’s all over, “I wonder if I can do more.”

Yes.

Yes, you can get that degree.

Yes, you can get that promotion.

Yes, you can climb that mountain.

Yes, you can get completely out of debt.

Yes, you can be a great step-mother.

Yes, you can switch careers in your 40’s.

Yes, you can _____________________.

Yes, there’s more.

Would I do it again? Probably not. There’s something more.

I-35 Lesson #3

My best reading happens on planes. This past weekend was no exception. The book I was reading was a find from listening to the Being Known Podcast. They had referenced it too many times for me to ignore, so I got it. I read the majority of it on this trip. The book is Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird.

I’ll post another blog about this book later, but here’s an excerpt that applied to my running experience for this I-35 Challenge. In it, he is describing a patient who was living with a rare, auto-immune disease.

Health-care professionals, family, and friends arrived to help her and left feeling helped by her. They would end up bringing up their own problems, their own life pain. She would say, “Don’t think about the pain. Be still before the pain.” She didn’t mean to give, and they didn’t intend to receive. But the more she was able to surrender to the loving silence at the center of her pain, the more she was a vehicle of this loving silence.

Medical writer Steven Levine observes “true healing happens when we go into our pain so deeply that we see it, not just as our pain, but everyone’s pain. It is immensely moving and supportive to discover that my pain is not private to me.” This is precisely what Elizabeth discovered about pain. If she could be silent within herself, in the midst of her pain and not get caught up in commenting on the pain, she saw her isolation vanish and what she found, even in the midst of this pain, was communion with all people in the silence of God.

I didn’t come close to Elizabeth’s status while putting myself through self-inflicted pain, but I caught a glimpse of what being still before the pain was like. My quads were already in pain before we started the half on Sunday morning. But as I ran, I focused less on my pain by noticing others who seemed to be dealing with their own that was greater. Communion happened.

This one runner in particular that I came upon around mile 7 got my utmost attention. She may have been 5 feet tall. From behind, it appeared she ran as if one leg might have been shorter than the other. For whatever reason, she seemed to run leaning to her right side. And she ran with a limp. Was it painful? I don’t know. It appeared it was a chronic condition that she lived with every day. And yet, here she was running a half marathon. There we were, fellow embracers of pain.

I-35 Lesson #3: Be still before the pain.

There’s more to see past your pain. There’s more to experience through your pain. Communion. Humility. Maybe even peace.

I’d say I’ve been on this lesson journey all summer. The result: Rather than avoid or complain about pain, embrace it. In the embrace, communion with your fellow embracers is found, and together you experience the presence and peace of God.

I-35 Lesson #2

This photo is a description of a marathon training plan devised by the Hanson brothers. I came across it years ago and loved it the first time I followed it. This plan, in many minds, is not conventional. Why? One main reason is that you never run more than 16 miles. Most plans and trainers would include running at least one 20-miler.

This summer, I had to take an even more unconventional approach to preparing for the I-35 challenge. If you count the number of runs in this plan that are at least 10 miles, there are 21 over the 18 weeks of training. Here’s my total of 10+ mile runs in the five months before race weekend: 4. And the longest…11 miles.

I-35 Lesson #2: Convention may not be necessary.

Summer heat kills any conventional sense for my training for a Fall race. In previous years, I’ve curtailed the summer heat by running on gym treadmills. Due to bad habits forming from too much treadmill running, this summer I swore off treadmills forever-dropped the gym membership completely. Big step.

That step led to figuring out how to train in the heat. And unfortunately for me, that meant running more days and less miles. Even less miles than the Hanson brothers designed. So I knew going into a weekend of 39.3 miles, my approach to getting to both finish lines couldn’t be what I’d prefer.

What’s the lesson here? There is a way to get to the finish line. In fact, just like driving from my home to the office, there are dozens of ways. If you are okay with slower, longer, pauses, breaks, you have many choices. In the end of these choices, you get there.

The majority of us are not elite. So does it really matter what we do to get there? Does it not count if we finish 3,009 instead of 309 or 39? Of course not. What counts is that you did what you could to get to the start line…and then you did what had to do to cross the finish line.

Convention is good, but it’s not necessary.

Somewhere in Kansas City. Photo by @sportsphotoscom

I-35 Lesson #1

This past weekend included many firsts. Seven of them were…

  • Flying Southwest out of Sarasota
  • Visiting Kansas City, St. Joseph, and Des Moines
  • Renting a Truck
  • Buying a Garmin watch
  • Touring the Glore Psychiatric Museum
  • Running a full marathon one day and running a half marathon the following day
  • Driving I-35

These firsts were part of attempting the I-35 Challenge: Run in Kansas City on Saturday then run in Des Moines on Sunday. Looking back on this trip, I have takeaways that I wasn’t even looking for, not expecting, didn’t know was coming. I’m calling these the 1-35 Lessons.

I-35 LESSON #1: Inspiration comes in many forms.

If you’ve never ran a race or had the chance to be a spectator, I encourage you to make it a goal. Whether it’s in person or virtually, you’ll see things that make you turn your head, raise your eyebrow, clap your hands, maybe even shed a tear. If you look long enough, pretty good chance you’ll find inspiration. For example…

In Des Moines, there was a team of runners who stood out because they were wearing red. But the real reason they stood out was because they were all pushing a wheelchair carrying a disabled person. That’s no joke. They are called My Team Triumph. Check out their mission from their website.

Then there’s this guy. I passed him during the race, but didn’t know his story until hearing him talk about his hobby of running when we happened to be on the same flight the next day. Take a guess how many marathons he’s ran. If you guessed 10…nope. 100…not even close. Try over 700.

These images and others will be in my mind for a long time. These runners showed up. They didn’t settle. And if they had supporters like mine following them virtually and freaking out from home, they didn’t disappoint.

Lesson: Inspiration is around us every day. Take time to reflect, acknowledge, and follow. It may lead you to many firsts of your own.

Crossing the start line in Des Moines…26.2 down, 13.1 to go

Our Batons

This morning I listened to a student pastor speak on the importance of being for the next generation. He used the analogy of passing off a baton in a relay race. His last point was an encouragement to not waste your weakness-meaning your past brokenness, your inabilities, or your inexperience do not disqualify you from being on the track, being part of passing off your baton to the next generation. You can carry a baton and pass it on.

Got me to thinking about the actual baton. What is the baton we are passing off? Is it just a broad view of a way of life? What if each one of us knew in more detail what the baton is that we are carrying? I believe we have our own unique baton that we can pass off to countless others throughout life.

Many things come to mind for me. I have a baton of music that I have passed on in many ways. I have the baton of church leadership that is still running its course. I have a baton of living a contented single life. One could say I have a baton of running that I occasionally pass on.

Those are skills and experiences. We could, and I believe we should, consider our spiritual batons also. These spiritual batons are the core of who we are, how we live. We run with the baton of faith, surrender, peace, hope, love, mercy, humility, kindness, patience-what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit.

Another thought about our unique baton could include the life challenges that God has used to mature us. These could be anything from experiencing loss of jobs, finances, relationships to seasons of doubt, distance, or disconnect. All of these things make up the baton that we are carrying.

What if we held tight enough to our unique baton making sure we don’t drop it but loose enough to let God keep molding it? What if we passed on these batons as often as we are prompted to while we are living rather than only after we die? What if we lived more for what we relay than what we grip?

You might have to get a wheelbarrow for all those batons. But imagine the impact when your race is over and your batons are still in the race.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Mile 4

Pat Schneider’s writing is inspiring. Needed attempt at brain pressure release.

Unsuspected I approach

They meander

Pacing and pecking, flapping and feeding, united and unique

Unsurprised I pause

They pass

busy and bothered, noticed and noted, caught and captured

Unhesitant I acknowledge

They came

sent and selected, happy and harmonious, celebratory and committed

Reflecting on seeing the flock of ibis on my run this morning, the day after my birthday, and my friend who joked I work like them. “The family flew in.”

Embrace the Pace

2020 has, if nothing else, provided many lessons. One of those has to do with pace. Sometimes life’s pace feels extreme; other times it crawls. The lessons are many, but here’s one on my radar: Whatever the pace, embrace it.

That’s not a call to laziness or workaholism. It’s more a call to submission. If God says run, run; when he says rest, rest. Whatever pace he’s setting, embrace it.

Embracing a pace requires awareness and commitment. The pace of a 5k is much different than a marathon. Why? For starters, there’s a difference of 23.1 miles. That pretty much sums it up. That awareness determines the mindset needed. Training is built on it. Racing is built on training. The entire process requires embracing.

Solomon seemed to understand this. Check out these verses from his books:

  • “My love calls to me: Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one. For now the winter is past; the rain has ended and gone away. The blossoms appear in the countryside. The time of singing has come, and the turtledove’s cooing is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs; the blossoming vines give off their fragrance. Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one.”‭‭ Song of Songs‬ ‭2:10-13‬ ‭CSB‬‬
  • “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:” ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬

There is a pace of hibernation which shifts to wondering.

There is a pace for listening and reflecting which shifts to singing and celebrating.

Whatever pace God is leading you at today, you can trust that it’s correct. Embrace it.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/David Brooke Martin

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 3)

I checked into an Airbnb in Dade City Monday. Across the road is this scene, a huge pasture with a lake.

Each morning I’ve driven downtown to get in my run. Tuesday morning when I returned, the pasture cows were having breakfast.

A couple of them paused to check me out. This one, I’ll call him Fred, was the most curious. He seemed a little bothered like, “Hey, human! What’s your problem? Can’t we eat without you people always staring at us?”

And that’s what Fred and I did-stared. It became a contest. Human won.

In my exercise work under the “Mine” column, I’ve come to a conclusion. I can be a lot like Fred. Chewing, wandering, mooing, doing whatever I want when someone comes along, mostly God, and interrupts. Gets my attention. Even calls me out. “How’s your responsibilities going?”

I’ve concluded that there is one thing that must top the list of mine-above my character, my integrity, my heart and soul. If I keep this one thing, it seems everything else on the list will fall into place. The top item is a surrendered will.

Freds can be stubborn, territorial, even proud. But eventually, they will surrender. And usually that comes in a moment of prayer. Consider these words from Paul David Tripp’s Awe:

The Lord’s prayer is a model for us. From “Our Father” to “your will be done,” the opening of this prayer presents a way of thinking, living, and approaching God inspired by awe of him. Only awe of him can define in you and me a true sense of what we actually need. So many of our prayers are self-centered grocery lists of personal cravings that have no bigger agenda than to make our lives a little more comfortable. They tend to treat God more as a personal shopper than a holy and wise Father-King. Such prayers forget God’s glory and long for a greater experience of the glories of the created world. They lack fear, reverence, wonder, and worship. They’re more like pulling up the divine shopping site than bowing our knees in adoration and worship. They are motivated more by awe of ourselves and our pleasures than by a heart-rattling, satisfaction-producing awe of the Redeemer to whom we are praying.

Christ’s model prayer follows the right order and stands as a model for our personal prayer. It’s only when my heart is captured by the awe of God that I will view my identity rightly. And it’s only when I view my identity rightly that I will have a proper sense of need and willingness to abandon my plan for the greater and more glorious plan of God.

So I guess I need to thank Fred. And do what’s mine, and only mine. Stay surrendered.

You Have Cookies?

Dialogue at the end of my drive-through order at Wendy’s earlier today:

Wendy’s: Would you like any sauce?

Me: No, thank you.

Wendy’s: Would you like to add a cookie to your order for only $.99?

Me: You have cookies? 

Wendy’s: Yes, we do.

Me: Wow! I didn’t know that. Yeah, I’ll have a cookie (with a no-brainer tone).

Later I enjoyed my Wendy’s double chocolate chip cookie.

Why do you need to know this?

  • Future orders
  • The power of offering
  • The blessing of knowledge
  • Runners eat cookies, too. Well, this one does.
  • Imagine that cookie with your Frosty!

Post credit: G2

5 Ways to Combat Forced Fear

Yesterday I saw the CBS commercial featuring actors from their shows sending this message: “We’re in this together.” Yes, community is important, always but certainly now.

If you think about that message for a moment, you can be more descriptive by replacing “this” with a specific noun. Like…

  • …We’re in economic uncertainty together
  • …We’re in confusion together
  • …We’re in isolation together
  • …We’re in media overload together
  • …We’re in the drive through together
  • …We’re in the grocery line together
  • …We’re in fear fatigue together

I’ll stop there to chew on that one. This “this” is one of the major things we are in together. 

Some of us by nature, personality, or any number of reasons tend to live more fearfully. But this is different. This feels like we’re all in fear together whether we want to be or not. Feels forced, on many levels.

We all have natural tendencies in responding to fear. Generally, we are defined as fighters or flighters. I tend to be the former, which explains why I tend to believe much of the fear we are in together is forced.

Regardless of its origination or our response tendency to it, fear does not get an automatic win. It can be overcome when we choose to combat it. You probably are already trying to combat it, subconsciously or thoughtfully. In case you’d like more help, because we’re in this together, here are five ways I’m combating forced fear.

  1. Created a Playlist…just this morning I decided it was time to create a COVID-19 playlist. My list includes songs that address fear directly, bring God into the picture, and focus on the hope of eternity. Pretty sure I’ll be playing it daily.
  2. Exercising Early…many years ago I had to overcome not being a morning person in order to pursue better running training. I’m not in training mode right now. But I’ve put my mind in combat fear mode, meaning setting the alarm on most mornings to get up and exercise first thing. My guess is, if you don’t already do this, when you give it a try you’ll like it.
  3. Increasing Peace Intake…this “this” is to combat that media overload we’re in together. Here’s a challenge to consider: however much time you spend watching, reading, scrolling, engaging in media that produces fear in you, spend at least that same amount of time or more taking in peace. Whatever produces peace in your heart, mind, and spirit needs equal time. Personally I’m barely looking at Twitter, looking at Facebook less, and pretty much looking at headlines only.
  4. Making Others First…this one can be very simple. Something as simple as letting someone go ahead of you in the grocery line, greeting the cashier by name, thanking them for the extra work they are doing, being empathetic with those you’re together with in the grocery aisles (practiced these Wednesday). For something more impactful, ask God to bring to mind someone to bless and how to do it (doing this today).
  5. Reading>Meditating…in particular, biblical characters that endured forced fear. Examples: Joseph, Esther, Ruth, Daniel, Mary and Joseph, and certainly Jesus. Many of them were forced to face the fear of death. Read their stories. Meditate on how they combated fear. I’m taking a look at Genesis all this weekend.

How are you dealing with forced fear? Got something else to share? Please do. We’re in forced fear together.